the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the Press Secretary on World Humanitarian Day

This week in Somalia, the terrorist group Al-Shabaab burst into a hospital in Mogadishu and kidnapped three aid workers who were treating innocent civilians injured by the fighting in that war-torn nation.  This senseless attack came almost a year to the day since ten humanitarian workers in Afghanistan were brutally murdered by the Taliban simply for delivering medicine and eyeglasses to the Afghan people.  On this third annual World Humanitarian Day, the United States joins with the international community in honoring the courage and commitment of dedicated aid workers like these who devote their lives to serving their fellow human beings, often in extremely dangerous circumstances. 

From the eastern Horn of Africa to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya to Yemen, Sudan to Pakistan to Afghanistan, these unarmed aid workers risk their lives to provide life-saving assistance to millions of men, women and children. When disaster strikes, these local and international humanitarians are often the first on the scene, as we saw again this year.  Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the earthquake in New Zealand, aid workers from those countries and around the world mobilized quickly and helped to lead the rescue and recovery efforts.  In the face of the on-going drought and famine in East Africa, aid workers are delivering food, medical treatment and clean water and saving countless lives.  In Sudan, aid workers continue to risk violent attacks, kidnapping and an increasing threat of landmines in their selfless efforts to provide food and shelter to those who have been displaced from their homes.  

‪On this World Humanitarian Day, we also honor the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to others.  Over the past decade, more than 750 humanitarian workers have lost their lives while helping innocent civilians in times of conflict and suffering.  Last year alone, 242 aid workers were killed, injured or kidnapped.  At a time when armed groups are increasingly targeting these humanitarians, the United States condemns any effort to harm aid workers and demands that they be given the access they need to reach those in need and save lives.  And we reaffirm our enduring commitment to the principles to which they dedicated their lives.  Around the world, every humanitarian aid worker must be free to serve without fear for their safety, and every human being must be able to pursue their aspirations in peace, dignity and security.